We’re all different.
We’re all equal.
Only one of these statements can be correct.
If I differ from you in ability to sprint the 100m, let’s say it takes me 15 seconds whereas you can cross the line in 12, we’re not equal in our ability to run the 100m. We are different, diverse, perhaps.
Should I be disbarred from entering sprint competitions? Of course not.
Will I win one? Unlikely.
Consider Luke Sayers, replete with ribbon, CEO of PwC Australia, then;
“What we’re trying to do at PwC is be 100% inclusive“.
Here at William of Ockham, we like precision of language. If we can agree on definition, we can start to sift through the noise to the truth.
So what might “inclusive” mean and, therefore, what would a totality (100%) of it look like?
Judging by this video and this statement on the corporate website, it means future partner admits will be 40% male, 40% female, 20% either male or female (cynically, that gives Luke an “out” to make it almost 60% male). It also means 20% of future partner admits will be from a “diverse cultural background“, rising to 30% in 2020.
What qualifies as a “diverse cultural background“? No definition is available. To repeat, without an agreement on definitions, we can’t find the truth. Is an ex-pat Harvard-educated Anglo-Saxon male called Bradley diverse enough for Australia, perhaps? What about a Parisian, educated at the Sorbonne? Tssk, those pesky definitions, eh?
There’s also a commitment to hiring people with disabilities, which was really the main focus of the video, but tellingly, no tangible metrics on that promise. Nothing about the ratio to be employed, nothing about their pay relative to their peers.
The chap in the video, Jeremy Kwok, has a vision disability. Given that a large component of the work of a corporate tax analyst and any other field of accountancy is analysis of financial data in spreadsheets, and that an ability to rapidly assess information on a screen is a foundational part of that work, how efficient is Jeremy compared with a hypothetical peer who has equal abilities in all other aspects? Would we expect them to be paid equally?
Does PwC pay Jeremy the same as his fellow graduates? We aren’t told.
Back to our original question. Perhaps being inclusive is to give a job to Jeremy, a person who, through no fault of his own, will never be able to glance at a spreadsheet and make an efficient analysis of the most appropriate course of action (which, as a client being billed by PwC by the minute, I’d desire) as quickly as a fully-sighted peer, but that job is paid at a lower rate?
What might 100% inclusive look (excuse the pun) like then? In the absence of definitions and metrics from PwC, one could be tempted by both the Strawman and the Slippery Slope fallacies here. For example, perhaps PwC are intending to offer jobs to every type of physical and mental disability such as those poor souls suffering in persistent vegetative state? Of course not. So is that being 99% inclusive then?
What of the 20% culturally diverse partners? Diverse from what, exactly? Being Australian? That should be a facile achievement given that 26% of the population in 2016 was born overseas. Again, for a firm that makes its revenue from counting numbers against defined rules, it is being very imprecise in its own backyard.
Luke Sayer is unable to articulate the concepts he is espousing in a way that most of the audience will understand. This might be for one of several reasons;
- The message is far too complicated for most people. In which case, why bother trying to explain it on a slickly-produced corporate video?
- He, and all of the corporate marketing team are incompetent and couldn’t distill the information into a precise message.
- It’s a flawed strategy that hasn’t been fully-thought through. The sentiment might be noble but the implementation requires far more introspection, analysis and a more honest assessment of what is feasible.
Occam’s Razor suggests option 3.
Poor old Luke. He’s confused feelings for facts and it’s made him feel warm and loved.
So, this song by his namesake is for him (replete with a chord progression plagarised from Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat).